video | behind the scenes | words | feedback

ok, if you insist.

drum|head is a cybernetic percussion instrument, a performance device. A video of a face is projected onto a polystyrene wigstand. When the wigstand is struck, the face responds appropriately and a sound is generated.


The aim of drum|head was to explore the potential for a musical controller that, in addition to the conventional modes of response, evokes an empathetic response.


In the early 80s, I attended a pop concert given by an artist whose specialty was electronic music (such as it was back then). Several of the songs featured noise bursts (a.k.a. white noise crashes). These noise bursts were triggered by a musician using a small foot pedal. But instead of stepping on the pedal to trigger the noise bursts, the musician held the pedal in one hand and hit it with the other. The effect was that of super human hand-claps. It was a stunningly simple bit of pop music theater. I intended drum|head to be a similar bit of pop music theatre. There is the novelty of hitting an object not usually considered a percussion instrument, but that has been done many times before (Simmons Drums, various MIDI percussion pads). Imbuing the object with a human appearance and response with which we can have empathy is the key to making drum|head so effective. The imperfectness of the projected video image on the polystyrene head gives drum|head just the right amount of cognitive distance (and spookiness) to keep it from becoming a Three Stooges gag.

Are you happy now?